Asia Options gets excited about initiatives that encompass both learning and travel to the Asian region, so we were thrilled to learn about the great work undertaken by Austern International.
Austern International is an initiative founded by Lily Wu and Jamie Lee that sends young Australians to the Asian region to learn about how businesses operate in the region, and gain professional work experience in Asia.
The program partners Austern participants with global companies who provide participants with a real life problem that they must solve. Through workshops, mentoring sessions and other activities Austern participants will provide innovative solutions to the company’s problem. Participants then have the opportunity to present their idea to a panel. This experience seeks to mirror real life situations that individuals working in Asia are often faced with.
Alice Slevison from Asia Options sat down with Austern International co-founder Lily Wu and 2015 Austern International participant Christine Li to discuss this exciting initiative!
Austern International co-founder Lily Wu
What inspired you to create Austern International?
As a Millennial myself, I know firsthand of the increasingly automated, highly technological society we live in, the competitive nature for entry-level positions, where employers are increasingly looking for students who can problem solve, think innovatively and adapt quickly to change. This is not to mention our generation’s confusion with where or how to prepare for the coming ‘Asian Century’.
This is why we founded Austern International. We see ourselves as the marketplace for global talent. Our immersive career programs allow students to gain access to some of the top employers around Asia, hone their skills by helping solve a problem and pitch it back to company executives. Not only do employers see tangible results, creating a perfect fit for employer and employee, we also see it as an entry point for students to consider entrepreneurship as a possibility; opening the doors for endless opportunities. We want students to effectively be able to engage in meaningful bi-cultural conversations and experience the ‘Asian Century’ first hand.”
2015 Austern International participant Christine Li
Why did you decide to apply for the Austern International program?
Lily Wu and I went to the same school so we have known one another for a long time. On my Facebook newsfeed I saw a number of Austern events that Lily had posted and I thought the program looked interesting.
Austern was highly relevant to my academic field, Actuarial studies, so I decided to apply. I intend on pursuing an actuarial career either based in Asia or based in Australia with interaction with the Asian region, so Austern was a perfect match.
Additionally, I was attracted to Austern because of my international background. Although I was born in Singapore and have lived in Sydney for 10 years, I also have family based in China. So as you can imagine my life has been a mix of Western and Eastern cultures.
What did you hope to get from the Austern International program?
I embarked on the program as I was keen to experience the Asian market for myself. I have a lot of relatives in the business sector (a few in banking, some in finance, and others running their own business). Hence, the topic of business and the Chinese economy is always talked about when I am with my family in China.
I’ve experienced the stark differences in Eastern and Western culture in terms of language, education, cuisine, values, traditions and more, but the different business market was something in which I had little exposure. Austern allowed me to complete my cross-cultural journey.
What was a personal highlight from the Austern International program?
Needless to say, food was an obvious highlight of the trip! It was presented in true Asian street food style – flavoursome and easy on the pocket! My favourite was the手抓饼 ‘shouzhuabing’ (Chinese Burritos). The local cuisine was a true highlight of the program for me!
Can you tell me about any interesting people you met during the Austern International program?
During the third weekend, we visited a school in the rural region and were given a chance to interact with the kids, who were about 10-12 years old. We were put into groups of 6, and we spent the afternoon completing activities. We also ate lunch at one of the children’s houses. The family that hosted us owned a bakery and I was truly impressed by the cakes he made despite the the small scale of his business.
During lunch we got to know the family very well. The children had never encountered “foreigners” before and they were excited by our presence. I must say, the connections developed on that day were so strong and I consider this sort of “East meets West” experience to be a truly memorable day.
What advice would you give to Australian applicants who are applying for a future Austern International program?
The beauty of Austern is that you get to travel to Asia with like-minded people. We had so much fun together, and the program had an inclusive and inspiring atmosphere. I felt completely at ease during the program.
I suggest applicants apply so they can check out Asian business markets, make friends and professional contacts, and experience a different culture. Keep an open mind during the trip and you will reap the benefits.
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